Ciaran Davis details ARN’s acquisition ambitions
The CEO of ARN, Ciaran Davis, has explained the company’s growth and diversification plans off the back of its strong financial performance for the first half of 2021.
In its half-year presentation, Hamish McLennan – chair of ARN’s parent company HT&E – flagged his own growth ambitions for the company, and noted the looming consolidation in the sector.
“The Australian media sector is expected to consolidate further and our current capital structure puts HT&E in a real position of strength to explore opportunities to become a multi-platform media organisation of scale, with digital content and commercialisation at it core,” he said.
In recent years, however, HT&E has been offloading or shuttering its non-core audio assets, including selling outdoor street furniture business AdShel to Ooh Media for $570 million, and closing Gfinity esports and a number of digital publications.
Why then, diversify back out, away from audio?
Davis said media companies of the future will need four things: scale, multi-platform content delivery, ease of trading, and an increasing bank of addressable IDs.
“And all media companies are trying to do that at the moment, but I think successful ones and the ones that can start capturing revenue from the likes of Google and YouTube and Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat will need to offer that at an accelerated pace,” he told Radio Today.
The next 12 months will see companies attempting to get back into pre-COVID shape, he said, which will involve some coming together in a bid to get a bigger share of the available revenue.
Audio, he added, will not be on the backburner as the industry continues to transform.
“Our broadcast radio and digital audio business is in very good shape,” he said. “And I think there’s a real opportunity to grow that business, patricianly in digital audio over the next two to three years.
“The strength of our balance sheet means that we’re in a very strong position to be able to invest in new areas like technology, like sales capability, like podcasting, content creation, and we will be absolutely focused on growing that sector.”
Emerging digital platforms and streaming options aren’t taking away from radio listening, he said, but are instead enhancing and adding to it.
“I think there’s a significant opportunity targeting digital revenues, which account for about 50% of the ad market in Australia. So this is a new commercial opportunity for us that is very early in its infancy. We have a lot of learning still to do. There’s a lot of audience to be captured. But I think it’s absolutely a growth area for this business in the next two to three years. And with the balance sheet that we have, then yes, we are going to focus on investing in that area. I think our shareholders would want us to do that.”
As for the company’s digital streaming and podcast platform iHeartRadio, Davis said it is “magnificent” and he’s very pleased with the growth it’s getting.
“It’s really strengthened our digital and data capabilities,” he added. “We’ve brought in an awful load of new people who have expertise in growing distribution channels in digital environments, in personalisation, in on-boarding, in marketing strategies and customer creation and growth strategies, and that’s been magnificent to see over the six months how our business is really transitioning from being broadcast radio to broadcast radio and digital audio and a digitally-enabled business.
“But certainly for us, iHeartRadio is a magnificent distribution platform that we’ve got a lot of plans coming through for. You’ve seen we’ve launched TikTok [Trending]. We’ve just announced an MTV [channel]. We’ve got two or three other big distribution partnerships to announce between now and the end of the year.”
Davis’ comments about ARN’s iHeart platform come after rival CEO Grant Blackley from Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) called its six-month-old platform LiSTNR the market-leader and said it was without equal.